The Mother Divine
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Bhagawan Shri Ramana Maharshi
The term ‘Guru’ is used in three senses. It can mean one who although he has no spiritual attainment, has been invested (like the ordination of a priest) with the right to give initiation and upadesha. He is often hereditary and is not unlike a family doctor for spiritual health. Secondly, the Guru can be one who, in addition to the above, has some spiritual attainment and can guide his disciples by more potent upadesha (even though the actual practices enjoined may be the same) as far as he himself has gone. But in the highest and truest meaning of the word, the Guru is he who has realised Oneness with the Spirit that is the Self of all. This is the Sat-Guru.

It is in this last sense that Sri Bhagavan used the word. Therefore he said, “God, Guru and Self are the same.” And in describing the Guru he said (in Spiritual Instruction):

“The Guru is one who at all times abides in the profound depth of the Self. He never sees any difference between himself and others and he is completely free from false notions of distinction that he himself is the Enlightened or the liberated while others around him are in bondage or the darkness of ignorance. His firmness or self-possession can never be shaken under any circumstances and he is never perturbed.”

Submission to this Guru is not submission to any outside oneself but to the Self manifested outwardly in order to help one discover the Self within. “The Master is within; meditation is meant to remove the ignorant idea that he is only outside. If he were a stranger whom you were awaiting he would be bound to disappear also. What would be the use of a transient being like that? But as long as you think that you are separate or are the body, so long is the outer Master also necessary and he will appear as if with a body. When the wrong identification of oneself with the body ceases the Master is found to be none other than the Self.”

It is axiomatic that one who is a Guru in this supreme sense of having realised his identity with the Absolute does not say so, inasmuch as there is no ego left to affirm the identity. Also he does not say that he has disciples, for, being beyond otherness, there can be no relationship for him.

Although the Jnani (Enlightened) is One with the Absolute, his traits of character continue to exist outwardly as the vehicle of his manifestation, so that one Jnani can have quite different human characteristics from another. One characteristic of Sri Bhagavan was his shrewdness and perspicacity. There seems no doubt that, just as he allowed himself to be considered a mouni (one who has taken a vow of silence) during his early years at Tiruvannamalai in order to avoid disturbance, so he took advantage of this doctrinal impossibility of asserting identity or admitting relationship in order to ward off unwarranted demands for upadesha from those who were not his real devotees. It is remarkable how successful the defense was, while real devotees were not taken in by it and were not intended to be.

Let us examine Sri Bhagavan’s statements carefully. He sometimes said he had no disciples and never stated explicitly that he was the Guru; however, he used the expression ‘the Guru’ as equivalent to ‘the Jnani’ and in such a way as to leave no doubt that he was the Guru, and he more than once joined in singing the song ‘Ramana Sad-Guru’.

Moreover, when a devotee was genuinely distressed and seeking a solution he would sometimes reassure him in a way that left no room for doubt. An English disciple, Major Chadwick, kept a record of such an assurance given to him in the year 1940:

Ch. Bhagavan says he has no disciples?

Bh. Yes.

Ch. He also says that a Guru is necessary if one wishes to attain Liberation?

Bh. Yes.

Ch. What then must I do? Has my sitting here all these years been just a waste of time? Must I go and look for some Guru in order to receive initiation seeing that Bhagavan says he is not a Guru?

Bh. What do you think brought you here such a long distance and made you remain so long? Why do you doubt? If there had been any need to seek a Guru elsewhere you would have gone away long ago.

The Guru or Jnani (Enlightened One) sees no difference between himself and others. For him all are Jnanis, all are one with himself, so how can a Jnani say that such and such is his disciple? But the unliberated one sees all as multiple, he sees all as different from himself, so to him the Guru-disciple relationship is a reality, and he needs the Grace of the Guru to waken him to reality. For him there are three ways of initiation, by touch, look and silence, (Sri Bhagavan here gave me to understand that his way was by silence, as he has too many on other occasions.)

Ch. Then Bhagavan does have disciples!

Bh. As I said, from Bhagavan’s point of view there are no disciples, but from that of the disciple the Grace of the Guru is like an ocean. If he comes with a cup he will only get a cupful. It is no use complaining of the niggardliness of the ocean; the bigger the vessel the more he will be able to carry. It is entirely up to him.

Ch. Then to know whether Bhagavan is my Guru or not is just a matter of faith, if Bhagavan will not admit it.

Bh. (Sitting straight up, turning to the interpreter and speaking with great emphasis.) Ask him, does he want me to give him a written document?

Few were so persistent as Major Chandwick in their demand for an assurance. The statement involving recognition of duality would not be made, but short of that Sri Bhagavan admitted being the Guru clearly enough for any person of understanding and goodwill; and some knew it without verbal confirmation.

A. Bose, a Bengali industrialist, as recorded by S.S.Gohen, once tried to elicit a precise statement. He said, I am convinced that a Guru is necessary for the success of the sadhaka’s (aspirant’s) efforts.” Then he added, with a quizzical smile, “Does Bhagavan feel for us?"

But Sri Bhagavan turned the tables on him, “Practice is necessary for you; the Grace is always there.” After a short silence he added, “You are neck deep in water and yet you cry out that you are thirsty.”

Even the practice really meant making oneself receptive to the Grace; Sri Bhagavan sometimes illustrated this by saying that although the sun is shining you must make the effort of turning to look at it if you want to see it. Professor Venkatamiah records in his diary that he said to Mrs. Piggott, an English visitor: “Realization is the result of the Guru’s Grace more than of teachings, lectures, meditations, etc. These are only secondary but that is the primary and essential cause.”

Some who knew his teaching at secondhand suggested that he did not hold it necessary to have a Guru and explained the lack of explicit initiation in that way, but he rejected this suggestion unequivocally. S.S. Chohen has recorded a conversation on this subject with Dilip Kumar Roy, the celebrated musician of Sri Aurobind ashram;

Dilip. Some people report Maharshi to deny the need of a Guru. Others say the reverse. What does Maharshi say?

Bh. I have never said that there is no need for a Guru.

Dilip. Sri Aurobindo often refers to you as having had no Guru.

Bh. That depends on what you call Guru. He need not necessarily be in human form. Dattatreya had twenty-four Gurus – the elements, etc. That means that any form in the world was his Guru. Guru is absolutely necessary. The Upanishads say that none but a Guru can take a man out of the jungle of mental and sense perceptions, so there must be a Guru.

Dilip. I mean a human Guru. The Maharshi didn’t have one.

Bh. I might have had at some time or other. And didn’t I sing hymns to Arunachala? What is a Guru? Guru is God or the Self. First a man prays to God to fulfill his desires, and then a time comes when he does not pray for the fulfillment of a desire but for God himself. So God appears to him in some form or other, human or non-human, to guide him as a Guru in answer to his prayer.

It was only when some visitor brought up the objection that Sri Bhagavan himself had not had a Guru that he explained that the Guru need not necessarily take human form, and it was understood that this referred to very raRe cases.

Perhaps it was with V. Venkatraman that he came nearest to an explicit admission that he was the Guru. He told him once: “Two things are to be done, first to find the Guru outside yourself and then to find the Guru within. You have already done the first.”

Or perhaps the confirmation that I myself received was even more explicit. After some weeks at the Ashram I perceived that Sri Bhagavan really was a Guru giving initiation and guidance. I wrote to inform friends in Europe of this and, before sending the letter, I showed it to Sri Bhagavan and asked whether to send it. He approved of it and, handing it back, said, “Yes, send it.”

To be a Guru is to give initiation and upadesha. The two are inseparable, for there is no upadesha without the initial act of initiation and no point in initiation unless it is to be followed up with upadesHa. The question, therefore, sometimes took the form of whether Sri Bhagavan gave initiation or upadesha.

When asked whether he gave initiation Sri Bhagavan always avoided a direct answer.

(Excerpts from ‘Maharshi and the Path of Self Knowledge’ by Arthur Osborne)